Industrial activity review for 2009

The following article by Mike Kay overviews industrial activity in New Zealand in 2009 and summarises some of the highlights.


 The Statistics NZ Survey of Working Life (March 2008) identified 30.1% of all employees as union members. Female employees were more likely to be union members than males (33.0% and 27.4%, respectively). Only 17.4% of casual employees were unionised. By industry, union membership was highest for those who worked in education (58.5%), health and community services (52.0%) and other services (42.8 %). Professionals (46.1%) and those who worked as plant and machine operators and assemblers in their main job (41.5%) had the highest level of union membership.

There has been a strong downward trend for work stoppages in the recent period, by every measure:

Source: Statistics NZ Work Stoppages: June 2009 quarter

 Although the year to June figures excludes a number of recent major disputes towards the end of 2009, they represent the lowest number of stoppages in 18 years. The transport, postal and warehousing industry was responsible for most stoppages, significantly ahead of the next most militant sector, manufacturing.  Undeniably, we are still in the midst of a protracted downturn in the class struggle, although some notable exceptions to the trend may point the way to a revival of militancy in the coming year. [Read more…]

Campaigning for living wage reform – ground reports

Unite union has launched a campaign in workplaces and communities for a national referendum on the issue of a $15 minimum wage. In this early stage of the campaign, Workers Party activists and other leftists are hitting the streets and public events to help gather the signatures to force the referendum. Here are some interesting comments, reports, and examples from the campaign on the ground.

[Read more…]

Sign the $15 petition

otara$15.jpgWorkers Party activists collected around 100 signatures for Unite’s campaign for a hike in the Minimum Wage at Auckland’s Otara Flea Market today.

Many of the signers remarked how they would personally benefit from raising the rate to $15 per hour – which would result in a pay increase for some 450,000 workers in New Zealand. It was an encouraging start to the year-long campaign to get the 300,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum on the issue.

Workers Party activists in Christchurch and Wellington have also been collecting hundreds of signatures at stalls and in workplaces.

New Zealand government’s RSE scheme: “Brutal racist oppression”

By Don Franks

In a press release on 4 June 2009 the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions deplored the Government’s removal of the minimum wage protection for workers on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

“There have been significant examples of unauthorised and unfair deductions from RSE workers’ pay even under the existing regulations,” said Wagstaff. “Relaxing the minimum wage rule will only result in more blatant exploitation of already vulnerable workers as unscrupulous employers shift costs onto them.”

“Allowing employers to make deductions which will reduce pay rates below the minimum of $12.50 per hour will significantly increase exploitation of RSE workers and undermine the credibility of the scheme”, said CTU Vice-President Richard Wagstaff.

Richard Wagstaff is dead right about the exploitation, but from a workers point of view, RSE has no credibility to be undermined.

The New Zealand Labour Department says:

“The RSE scheme facilitates the temporary entry of overseas workers, mainly from the Pacific, to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops in the horticulture and viticulture industries to meet labour shortages in order to remain competitive with the rest of the world.” [Read more…]

The holiday sell-out

Daphna Whitmore
The Spark May 2009

 Compared to most western countries, New Zealand workers have pretty meagre holidays. An international survey published April 2009 ( found that New Zealand workers have fewer holidays than many other Western countries. The gap is likely to widen with a new law proposed by the government. The Nats want workers to be able to cash up their fourth week’s holiday each year. Currently, holidays must be taken as time off work and cannot be swapped for money.  According to the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, “surveys show most workers only take three weeks’ leave each year, so if they want to trade in that fourth week and their employer agrees then it’s a win-win.”

Yeah right. [Read more…]